What It Is, What It Is For, Benefits And How To Use Creatine:
Organic acid, which plays an essential role in the production of energy in cells, creatine has become the basis of supplementation for muscle hypertrophy because it improves performance during exercise, slows down fatigue, increases focus ability and accelerates post-workout recovery.
What is Creatine?
Almost indispensable for those who practice bodybuilding for hypertrophy, creatine is a substance that is also produced naturally by the body from the amino acids glycine, methionine and arginine.
Approximately 2 g of creatine are absorbed every day by our body through the food, the rest of our needs being obtained from the synthesis made by the liver from the amino acids.
About 95% of the human body’s creatine can be found in skeletal muscle tissue. Each pound of muscle mass comes to contain 3.5 to 4 grams of creatine, although it can store up to 5 grams of the nutrient at a single time. For this reason, supplementation with creatine can be quite efficient, since the saturation threshold of the musculature has not yet been reached through the diet.
And because much of the research on creatine is done based on a 5g dosage of the nutrient in the muscles, it is almost impossible to get the same benefits of creatine as mentioned in studies if there is no supplementation.
Natural sources of creatine include beef and fish such as salmon and tuna. A beef fillet of 230 grams contains about 2.5 g creatine, similar to that found in salmon (2.3 g per 230 g portion).
What is Creatine Used for?
The main function of creatine for those who train intensely is to provide energy for muscle contractions, an effect that results from their conversion to phosphocreatine (or creatine phosphate).
After being released by the liver (where it is synthesized), creatine reaches muscle tissue and helps to produce ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, the molecule responsible for storage and energy supply for cellular activities.
We can therefore say that creatine serves to increase the availability of energy for your workouts, especially those involving force and intense contractions, such as bodybuilding and short-distance races.
That is, creatine allows you to have a more intense and more intense workout, while shortening recovery between sets and between workouts.
Briefly, we can say that creatine promotes increased muscle mass, improves maximum strength, improves performance during high intensity exercise, speeds recovery and boosts muscle pump.
Other effects of creatine include improved sleep, increased testosterone levels and fighting free radicals (creatine has antioxidant function).
How does Creatine work?
Adenosine triphosphate is the body’s energy source, obtained through the oxidation of carbohydrates, fat or even protein. We can say that ATP is responsible for providing energy to practically all the processes that occur in the body, being even more indispensable for muscle contraction.
When the muscle needs to contract, ATP undergoes a hydrolysis process and converts to ADP (adenosine diphosphate) + P, where P is a phosphate group. This process generates heat, which used for muscle contraction. The resulting ADP, however, has virtually no function unless it is converted back into ATP. And that’s just where creatine comes in.
After being converted to phosphocreatine, creatine has a phosphate group to “donate”, and that’s exactly what it does: it supplies a phosphate group to ADP, which now converts back to ATP. Result: more energy for your muscle contraction. In practice, creatine allows you to train for longer and with more intensity.
And in addition to making it possible to convert ADP to ATP, creatine is itself a source of energy, since the body’s favorite source of fuel during anaerobic activities (such as bodybuilding) are creatine phosphate stocks. When doing creatine supplementation, you will be replenishing these stocks, ensuring more energy for your series.
Another benefit of creatine is its ability to retain water inside muscle cells. When they are more hydrated, muscle fibers increase protein synthesis, which results in muscle regeneration and hypertrophy – and on top of that it creates the much-desired muscle pump.
Different forms of creatine
In recent years, new forms of creatine have been developed in order to improve their absorption and reduce the undesirable effects of poor digestion that may be associated with the supplement. Currently, creatine can be found in several presentations, the most common being:
– Creatine Monohydrate
More natural form of creatine, monohydrate is also considered the most efficient, the type of creatine normally employed in scientific studies and supplements. It has low solubility and can cause gastric discomfort (feeling of puffiness and diarrhea) in some people.
– Micronized Creatine
With smaller particles of creatine and with a higher absorption rate, micronized creatine is basically creatine monohydrate “broken” into smaller particles. Thanks to this process, micronized creatine has a surface area about 20 times greater than that of the monohydrate, which increases the rate of absorption of the supplement and reduces discomforts during digestion.
More efficient than creatine monohydrate, the micronized version has the only drawback of being also more expensive.
– Creatine Ethyl Ester
As the name suggests, this is creatine that underwent a process of esterification and is now added with an ester. This ensures high absorption rates (about 99%, according to supplement manufacturers) and eliminates intestinal discomforts.
Despite the advantage of not needing saturation like the other types, this is the most expensive form of creatine on the market.
Benefits of Creatine
It is no wonder that creatine is one of the supplements most used in the universe of bodybuilding. In addition to providing more energy to the muscles, it also acts to control blood glucose, promotes bone health (thanks to IGF-1 performance), and stimulates testosterone production.
The supplement can also be used by vegetarians to stimulate muscle growth, since they usually have lower creatine levels because of the lack of animal protein in the diet.
And the benefits of creatine do not stop there. Check out the others:
– Increase the intensity of training
Creatine allows you to maintain intensity for longer during workouts, leading to an increase in volume and even in the charge of some exercises. And you already know: more intensity in training, greater muscle hypertrophy.
This is because creatine phosphate is responsible for delivering immediate energy to the cells, ensuring that muscles do not go into fatigue due to lack of fuel. And more energy is equivalent to stronger muscle contractions, which will allow you to pull more weight during the workout.
– Improves muscle contraction
We have already seen that the source of energy for muscle contraction is ATP, which supplies fuel through the release of the phosphate group. It turns out that the existing ATP is only able to provide power for, on average, 10 seconds.
When you consume creatine, the phosphate group it donates to ADP will ensure continuity of contraction, which occurs through the formation of more ATP molecules.
– Accelerates recovery
Studies suggest that creatine supplementation reduces inflammation after intense workouts and is also able to reduce muscle cell damage, improving post-workout recovery.
For those who usually go for several days without exercising after intense workout, creatine supplementation can shorten this interval, allowing you to train more often and intensively.
– More muscle pump
Although many claim otherwise, the goal of most bodybuilders is to achieve a defined and bulky muscle.
Known as pump muscle, this effect can be improved with creatine, which draws more water into the muscle, creating the much-desired vascular and imposing pump effect.
– For those who are trying to eliminate excess fat, doing intense exercises with little interval (such as HIIT sprints) may be one of the best options, since this type of activity speeds up the metabolism.
Since these exercises depend on ATP, consuming creatine can improve performance during activity, reducing fatigue and providing a more intense workout and therefore with more potential to increase metabolism.
– Inhibits myostatin
Highly catabolic, myostatin limits muscle growth, an effect that can be minimized by the presence of creatine, which acts as a natural inhibitor of the substance.
– Stimulates the increase of IGF-1
Known as an insulin-like growth factor, IGF-1 is a hormone produced in the liver from growth hormone (GH) and its importance for those who practice bodybuilding lies in the fact that IGF-1 is highly anabolic.
A 2008 Canadian study showed that creatine consumption was responsible for a considerable increase in IGF-1 levels among bodybuilders.
– Improves brain functions
In addition to the numerous benefits of creatine for gaining muscle mass, it can also be a great stimulant for the brain.
Research published in the prestigious journal Neuroscience indicates that creatine has a neuroprotective effect, that is, it helps to protect brain cells from damage caused by free radicals and other aggressive agents.
Other studies suggest that creatine improves memory and promotes performance in activities that require more concentration.
Although uncommon, some of the side effects of creatine include cramps, dehydration and diarrhea.
And because the kidneys are responsible for the excretion of creatinine, a byproduct of creatine, anyone with a history of kidney problems should avoid supplementation with creatine.
Which creatine to take?
For those who have never used creatine before, the tip is to start with the monohydrate version, which has better cost x benefit. If you start having difficulty digesting the product or you can not get any gain from the supplement, then switch to the other versions of creatine.
How to use
Here are tips on how to use creatine to accelerate your goals in the gym:
As creatine draws water to your muscles, the first thing you should do before starting supplementation is to increase your daily water intake. From 2.5 to 3 liters is the minimum you should provide to your body every day, and maybe even longer if you are consuming large concentrations of protein.
Five grams is the ideal amount of creatine you need every day (besides what you already consume through diet).
Consume the supplement once in the pre workout or in two doses of 2.5 g each in the pre and post workout.
– Source of Carbohydrate
The best way to take creatine is to include it in post-workout nutrition, along with whey and a rapidly absorbed carbohydrate source. Right after the end of physical activity, the muscles are avid for nutrients (the so-called “window”), and for them to be better absorbed, the cells need the presence of insulin. And the best way to cause an insulin spike is through the consumption of dextrose or other fast-assimilating carbohydrate.
If you choose to consume creatine also in the pre-workout, combine it with maltodextrin or another carbohydrate.
– Best time to take creatine
In theory, you can take creatine in the pre or post workout, being five grams more than enough per day. Pre-workout creatine could increase ATP in the cells, making you work harder during the sets while at the same time being able to recover more quickly between them.
Creatine in the post workout will restore creatine phosphate stores depleted during physical activity, leaving your muscles fueled for the next workout and to aid muscle recovery.
Some researchers suggest, however, that taking creatine before training will not leave you with more energy, since creatine has a cumulative effect and its benefits depend on the saturation of muscle cells.
For them, as the body needs at least five days to achieve muscle saturation of creatine, ingesting it in the pre workout will not make a difference. And in case you have already undergone the process of saturation, it is no use adding the supplement to your pre-work shake, because the body needs time to metabolize creatine, an hour or two will not be enough.
Some people choose to cycle creatine, to improve the body’s response to the supplement. You do not have to do this, but if you find it necessary, take the creatine for 30 days and stop drinking for another 30. And so on.
I will start taking as soon my shoulder is healthy enought to start lifting. I bought a monohydrate Platinum Creatine by Muscletech. But, you can find Creatine in any Supplement store, Amazon or even drug stores in the supplement section.
Let me know your thoughts about Creatine.